I’m a big football fan. And I’m sorry Leeds folks, but if you didn’t know I follow that team in red from t’other side of t’Pennines (and anyone suggesting Liverpool gets a slap!).
It’s that time of the year when the papers are full of transfer speculation, gossip and nonsense about which team’s going to sign who for whatever obsence amount of money. Ronaldo! Bale! Cavani! Alcantara! Strootman! £18 million! £85 million?!
One of the recent development on social networking sites like Twitter are the emergence of so-called ‘ITKs'(In The Knows). You know the ones, they claim to be people connected with the game, are allegedly agents, have exclusive hotlines to the clubs and players, work in ‘media’ etc etc.
Some of them have incredible followings of 50,000 or more.
Some blatantly follow what the other’s saying. It’s like watching a line of dominos go down – as one says he or she has heard that Ronaldo’s leaving Madrid, then the other’s start tweeting the same thing. It often amounts to little more than spreading an initial falsehood by someone sat in their living room making it all up.
Amazingly people (fans) blidly retweet and chat about these ‘ITKs’;as if they were reading the gospel.Every last word is believed. The lie given credibility by the masses. As a fan it’s like death by a thousand cuts. As a journalist it’s kind of infuriating, but to be fair most of the stuff on the back pages is fabricated nonsense anyway.
What can you believe when it comes to transfers? Basically I believe it when the club officially announces it. The rest of the nonsense has sadly become part and parcel of the game.
It’s also a lesson to any aspiring journalists out there – Twitter’s great for breaking stories and following events from a news and sport point of view. But speed and going viral isn’t everything.
You need to treat it with skepticism, just as you would any other source. From a news point of view social media content curation service Storify is a great example of how to do these checks.
You also need to use your own nous and instinct as a journalist. Use social media as a starting point and do your journalistic checks, verify facts and check out your sources.
You may find people ‘in the know’ aren’t quite so knowledgeable after all.